Saturday 23 March 2024

Movie Review: Women Talking (2022)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Sarah Polley  
Starring: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Frances McDormand  
Running Time: 104 minutes  

Synopsis: At an isolated religious colony, women are subjugated, deprived of education, and regularly raped. Taking advantage of most of the men being away, a group of women gather to discuss whether they should stay and fight for better conditions or abandon their men and leave the colony. Those offering opinions include the pregnant (by rape) Ona (Rooney Mara), the angry Salome (Claire Foy), whose child has been assaulted, and Mariche (Jessie Buckley), who is married to an abusive husband. Kind school teacher August (Ben Whishaw) is the only man allowed to attend and record the deliberations.

What Works Well: Writer and director Sarah Polley demonstrates no shortage of artistic courage in adapting Miriam Toews' book to the screen. With just a few exterior interludes, this is a one-set drama staged within a barn, consisting exclusively of a should-we-stay-or-should-we-go debate. The option exploration is a gateway to revelations, some horrific, about an oppressive patriarchal community. A blanched blue-green-grey-brown palette reflects women robbed of their agency, the living conditions and hard choices resonating well beyond the barn.

What Does Not Work As Well: The film's intimate focus on a single passionate conversation is also a foundational cinematic weakness. Theatricality dominates, and the uneducated women exhibit remarkable discourse skills but without bothering to consider neither what "stay and fight" entails nor the practicalities of survival outside the colony. 

Conclusion: Rarely has a title so accurately reflected both the bravura and limitations of the content.

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